A circular route from Brothers Water
15.11.2009 20 °C
The path led through the trees bordering the shore of Brothers Water. Ahead the distant Kirkstone Pass road could be seen snaking up the deep valley below Red Screes, the cars moving silently at this distance. I was following the path into Dovedale from near the northern end of Brothers Water and from that unspoilt dale I would ascend first Dove Crag followed by Hart Crag - both part of the Fairfield Horseshoe route from the far side - and make my descent via the long ridge of Hartsop Above How to my start point.
Leaving the lake behind, the path forked by some farm buildings and taking the left fork which seemed the most obvious, I headed into Dovedale. The rugged slopes of Dove Crag and Hart Crag rose impressively ahead as I passed an isolated barn. A little further on I crossed the stream over a footbridge to a water meadow with grazing cattle before the path began to climb up through trees. It was warm in the sheltered dale and the day promised to be a good one.
The eastern side of these fells - of which Fairfield is the highest - form a rocky barrier to the east in contrast to the grassy slopes facing Ambleside to the West and as a result the routes on the eastern side generally provide more interest. The way up here followed the stream in its rocky bed and soon left the trees to climb rough open fellsides to a higher valley unseen from below.
From here you can gain the ridge up to Dove Crag by heading up the slopes to the left but the main direct route crosses the river and continues up the valley before climbing steeply up towards the crags above. This route used to be rough and loose but a well constructed path now leads up an impressive gully which is climbed without difficulty. The last part was in the shadowed gully with rock walls rising above when all of a sudden I emerged on an almost level swathe of grass. Walking a short way to the right rewarded me with wonderful open views of the Eastern Fells. This is a good place to appreciate the unique wild beauty of Lakeland. From here there is little sign of man's interference in the area. Lower down are some ancient mine huts and the cropped turf is synonymous with sheep farming but the no building rule of the National Park has kept the wreckers out and the land looks much as it did a thousand years ago. I do like walking in the Alps and such regions but it is rare to find landscapes as natural as this. In a spot such as where I now stood, you would just as likely find a cafe or the dreaded ski pistes.
Up to the summit of Dove Crag from here is surprisingly easy after the crags of the valley below. The path led around the slope and I soon headed off it to the left up the grassy fellsides to walk along the top of the crag itself where I enjoyed stunning views back down into Dovedale while a pair of buzzards wheeled overhead. Now I walked the last quarter mile to the flat summit and rejoined civilisation in the form of several walkers eating sandwiches by the cairn.
Passing quite a number of fellwalkers now, on the Fairfield Horseshoe route I headed roughly north west towards Hart Crag. Whichever way you came up it was a great day to be on the fells with the distant views remaining clear and the light and shade patterns on the nearer hillsides inviting numerous camera stops. The walking was very easy until the last part of Hart Crag steepened ahead and I had to put some effort in once more.
From the rather more rugged top of Hart Crag with its 2 cairns, I followed a faint path in a roughly north easterly direction which rapidly became steeper down the stony slopes. This route should be avoided in bad visibility as there are steep crags hidden from view below. As long as you can see the way you can stick to steep walking and easy scrambles down but it would be easy to stray on to more dangerous ground without a clear view ahead. Even in these perfect conditions I missed the path a couple of times.
Surviving the cliffs of Hart Crag which now rose behind along with the awesome East Face of Fairfield, I found myself back on level grassy terrain which I followed gently downhill avoiding the occasional boggy patch to climb back up a short distance to the next summit, Hartsop Above How. This hill, though below 2000 feet, is listed as a separate fell in Wainwright's guide - The Eastern Fells - and its summit was the most impressive so far. The summit is on a long ridge which drops precipitously on both sides - especially to the South. Below was my route of the morning through the woods and meadows of Dovedale 1300 feet below where I sat while the fells of the High Street Range rolled out across the valley. It was another superb spot to just stop and enjoy my surroundings.
It was still a little way to go yet though so I was soon off again walking - always downhill towards Patterdale which filled the view ahead framed between sunlit hills. The ridge descended gradually and presently Patterdale became nearer and I was walking amongst trees again. A faint path led down through the woods and unerringly took me back to the road. I had seen nobody since leaving Hart Crag. A right turn short walk by the road saw me back at the car.
Pete Buckley summer 2008
Summits Dove Crag 2603ft/793m Hart Crag 2698ft/822m Hartsop Above How 1870ft/570m
Essentials >>> Up 830m >>> Down 830m >>> How Far? 12.9km
Please see the table of contents below for more walks in the Lake District